Friday, January 1, 2010

The Iranian Regime Faces Nuclear Deal Deadline

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Al Jazeera English

The deadline for Iran to agree to international demands that it ship its nuclear material abroad for enrichment is set to expire. Iran has until Thursday to agree to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proposal, designed to calm the fears of the US and its allies that Iran might use its nuclear programme to make a nuclear weapon. Under the terms of the deal, Tehran would transfer its low-grade nuclear material abroad where it will be further enriched and returned to fuel a medical research reactor. Iran denies that is trying to make a weapon and says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. Kristen Saloomey, Al Jazeera's correspondent in New York, said efforts were under way to establish a multi-lateral approach to sanctions should Iran miss the deadline. "Diplomatic sources tell Al Jazeera that the United States is considering a menu of sanctions," she said. "Those could be imposed on Iran by the United Nations if they can get the entire five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council to agree to them, or could be imposed unilaterally by the United States and by its European allies. "As for what sanctions might be considered, the United States is reportedly looking at targeting the oil sector with an eye towards destabilising Iran's economy. "Of course, it must tread very carefully here - it doesn't want to be seen as hurting the Iranian people or interfering in any way in Iran's domestic affairs."

'Targeted sanctions'

Several diplomats said the United States and at least some of its Western partners want to avoid hitting Iran's life blood - its energy sector - for fear it would trigger a broad-based Iranian nationalist reaction. They also doubt such sanctions would gain the support of China and Russia, which have been more reluctant than the Western powers to impose sanctions. Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Washington may target the Revolutionary Guard, which "are managing Iran's nuclear programme, liaising with extremist groups throughout the Middle East, and overseeing the brutal suppression of non-violent protesters." She told AFP that punishing the Guard "makes sense because it potentially kills several birds with one stone", without alienating the Iranian opposition. Aside from it nuclear disagreement with the West, Iran is facing unrest at home from opposition protesters following the country's disputed presidential polls in June.